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Researchers commemorate unmarked First World War soldier's grave with headstone

PUBLISHED: 10:00 30 January 2016

Sean Connolly found private James Biggs was in an unmarked grave so informed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who then placed a headstone by his grave in Rainham Cemetery.

Sean Connolly found private James Biggs was in an unmarked grave so informed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who then placed a headstone by his grave in Rainham Cemetery.

Archant

The unmarked grave of a soldier who died almost 100 years ago has finally been commemorated with a headstone thanks to researchers who spent months tracking him down.

Private James Biggs, of Cowper Road, Rainham, was in an unmarked grave for 98 years in Rainham Cemetery. But Sean Connolly and Steve Fifer from the Essex Commemoration Project have ensured he now has the dignity of a headstone.

Sean, of Farm Road, Rainham, said: “Thankfully James has been recognised as part of the war dead and commemorated for his efforts.

“There might have been a wooden cross there once but that could have rotted away or been knocked off years ago so no one would have known where he was buried.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that we helped in getting him recognised for what he did during the war.”

James Biggs joined the 3rd Service Battalion Leicestershire Regiment when he was 33 but during the Battle of the Ancre in 1916, he was taken to a First Aid Post due to illness and diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, a bacterial infection in the lungs.

He was considered no longer fit for military service in 1917 and medically discharged with a disability pension.

James died at home in 1918 and so was overlooked from the list of war dead.

But Sean and Steve have persuaded the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to install a gravestone.

Sean said: “There are so many people who have not been considered as war dead for lots of different reasons so I am happy we were able to have him recognised for what he did.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to continue helping more men and women who served this country during the war.”

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